For those in the Charleston area, the first Friday of August was an interview about Mary Boykin Chesnut on our local ETV radio station at 89.9 with Walter Edgar’s South Carolina Journal. Her biographer goes beyond the War Between the States diary into her earlier years of growing up, teaching every slave she could how to read and write. The women were the heros of the South, the cohesive, oft times rebellious members of society who lived out their faith by being doers of the Word, not hearers only, teaching the slaves their catachism, while their husbands and fathers were passing laws forbidding teaching slaves to read and write.
I quote from her diary at breakfast in the house we visit on East Battery overlooking the harbor and Ft. Sumter. I was delighted to talk to a tour organizer who is half way through reading MBC’s diary because of my suggested reading on this web site, though she has yet to go on my tour.
I learned that Mary Boykin Chesnut’s father’s plantation was bought BEFORE THE WAR by a free man of color, who owned 60 slaves. Unfortunately, there are no records of life and relations between master and slave under his ownership, such as MBC provided. I also learned that there was a very well educated “mulatto” woman who taught Mary with Madame Talvande in Charleston where she was a boarding student on Legare Street at the Sword Gate House. I knew she went to school here, but how interesting that she was taught by a person of color, who she respected and admired. No wonder she tried to teach every slave she could how to read and write. The inter racial relations were much more complex than we might think.
It is always fun to be the student and to learn more and more. Adding to one’s foundation is a life time achievement, which never grows dull. I will be taking my daughter to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee the week of Aug 13-19, taking in Natches and Vicksburg. I hope to see you after our own vacation, our first of the summer. If you are in Charleston during my time away, you can call my mother, Marianne Wichmann, for her 9:30 am two hour walking tour at 843-722-1779.
–Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-577-5896